In Hayden and Winkelman, Arizona, there are high levels of lead and arsenic in the air, mine waste piles, and soil in some non-residential locations.

  • The air has lead and arsenic in it from smelting processes. ASARCO is working to install new equipment and pollution control technology to reduce emissions. See more information here.
  • Some non-residential soil has lead and arsenic that has settled out of the air onto the soil over time. Some lead and arsenic may have come from other sources as well. EPA and Asarco have cleaned up lead and arsenic in soil in residential and public areas in the towns.
  • Waste piles are located in and around the towns and are accessible to people in the area.

2015 Exposure Investigation – Blood Lead and Urine Arsenic

An exposure investigation is the collection and analysis of samples to determine whether people have been exposed to hazardous substances.

People in the community may come in contact with lead and arsenic in the air and soil. In addition, people may come into contact with lead from old paint or other sources in their homes, and with arsenic in their diets. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) asked ATSDR to offer blood and urine testing for people in the community to measure lead and arsenic levels. ATSDR and its partners EPA and the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) conducted an exposure investigation in Hayden and Winkelman in 2015.

ATSDR and ADHS collected blood and urine samples from residents to help us determine if people at higher risk for health effects (e.g. young children and pregnant women) are being exposed to lead and arsenic. Lead testing is done with a blood sample and arsenic testing is done with a urine sample.

Who was eligible to sign up?

In April 2015 ATSDR offered free, voluntary lead and arsenic testing in Hayden and Winkelman.
When we began the recruitment period in March 2015, children living in Hayden or Winkelman between the ages 9 months to 11 years were eligible for lead testing. Children living in Hayden or Winkelman between the ages of 6 years to 11 years were eligible for arsenic testing.
Pregnant women of any age living in Hayden and Winkelman were also eligible to participate in both lead and arsenic testing.
Later in the recruitment period, ATSDR expanded the eligibility criteria to also include

  • Children aged 12 – 17 years living in Hayden and Winkelman
  • Women of childbearing age (up to age 44) living in Hayden and Winkelman

We did not offer arsenic testing to children ages 9 months to 5 years because it is difficult to collect urine samples from young children – especially those wearing diapers – and we cannot interpret the testing results because national comparison values do not exist.
Names, contact information, and test results have been kept confidential.
Blood and urine samples were tested by a laboratory at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention .

What did ATSDR do after the 2015 testing?

ATSDR sent participants a letter with their test results in June 2015 and, if necessary, provided recommendations for reducing exposures.

ATSDR and ADHS representatives are available to speak with participants about their results.

ATSDR contacted all participants who had lead or arsenic levels above the investigation follow up level to further discuss recommendations for reducing exposures and follow-up actions.

ADHS followed up to provide additional information to individuals who test above the follow-up level of 5 μg/dL for lead.

ATSDR summarized the results of the investigation in a report dated 3/27/2017 available here.

2017 Exposure Investigation – Urine Arsenic Retest

In October 2017 ATSDR  offered a urine arsenic retest to participants of the 2015 urine arsenic testing. Less-than-typical levels of arsenic were in the air before and during the 2015 testing because the smelter was shut down for maintenance. 2015 participants may have breathed in less arsenic than they typically do, reducing the amount of arsenic in their urine. In 2017 we offered an arsenic retest during a time we anticipated the  smelter would be operating normally to see what level of arsenic is in participants’ bodies typically.

How can people be exposed to lead and arsenic in the area?

People may be exposed by breathing air that has lead and arsenic in it.

People may be exposed if they eat small amounts of contaminated soil, dust, or lead-based paint by accident. Young children are more at risk than adults because they play in areas where soil, dust, and paint may be found and then put toys and hands in their mouths.

What are the possible health effects of exposure to lead and arsenic?

Lead exposure can cause learning and behavior problems in children. Some of the effects of lead may never go away.

Arsenic exposure can cause skin problems, stomach ache and nausea. Arsenic exposure over many years also raises the risk of cancer of the skin, bladder, lung, and liver.

What did ATSDR do after the 2017 testing?

ATSDR sent each participant a letter with their test results in December 2017 along with suggestions for reducing exposures. ATSDR summarized the results of the investigation in a report available here.

Page last reviewed: January 7, 2020